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Category: Doin’ The Time

mastery and creativity

GET TIME-RICH

GET TIME-RICH

We don’t usually think about poverty in terms of time.  After all, each one of us has the same 24 hours every day, right?  How can one person be “time richer” or “time poorer” than another person?

And yet there is this notion of “time famine” that’s been around since the 1990’s.  It’s an epidemic, those guys who look at population trends tell us.

In this brave new post-modern fast-paced world, more and more of us are wandering around moaning about how we don’t have enough time to do all the everything we have to do.

One eye-opening YouTube video is “The Time You Have (In Jellybeans)” published in 2013 by zefrank, a funny-guy philosopher I like.

The video graphically illustrates the ways an average American uses time.  It also asks a very important question at the end.  This video has been viewed by millions of people since it was posted.

LOOKING AT THE SIGNS

Time-starved people spend endless hours trying to tweak the inflexible, immutable time supply.  They live in a constant state of rolling personal crisis.

Over and over they try to squeeze just a little bit more productivity out of their daily time allotment. The result often is a mountain of paper charts, large collections of time-saving devices, systems and apps…and not much relief, it seems.

The symptoms of time starvation include the feeling of being rushed, of time “getting away” from us, of always playing catch-up, and of trying to “make do” and “do more” with our available time, an inherently finite and immutable resource-turned-commodity.

[Small pause for definitions.  “Resource” is something you use.  “Commodity” is something you sell.]

Researchers who study the “time-starved” say time-poor people report being more stressed and less satisfied with their lives than other folks.

They often feel overwhelmed by their everyday lives.  They report a constant feeling that they have no time for the things that matter most to them.

hurry
“Hurry” by Matthias Weinberger via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Somehow, they feel as though they are being squashed flat and are turning into extras in a zombie apocalypse movie.

STARVATION IS BAD FOR YOUR BODY AND MIND

Time starvation has very real physical and psychological effects.  It plays havoc on your state of well-being.

One groundbreaking national study of more than 10,000 employees in the United Kingdom found that employees with a sense of time poverty called in sick three times more often.

Even more disturbing, the study found that the mortality rate of those who felt chronically pressed for time was also three times higher at the same age.

Apparently, more money doesn’t seem to help.  In fact, according to a Gallup poll conducted in 2011, the more money you have, the more likely you are to suffer from time-starvation.  The poll concluded, “The more cash-rich working Americans are, the more time-poor they feel.”

take-your-time-hurry-up
“Take Your Time, Hurry Up” by Thomas Hawk via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Hmmm….

WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET

The thing is, all of the wise guys since ancient times have told us that “time” is actually an illusion.

Events happen — one after the other.  Period.

We see and experience these events.  We make up stories that help us make sense out of them.  Our feelings arise out of the stories we tell ourselves and each other.

And the stories we make are how we perceive time.

Time, like space, is just there.

How we feel about the whole megillah is what we use to build the world we make for ourselves.

The studies by smarty-pants dressed in lab coats keep on validating and confirming this.

The following YouTube video, “How To Have the Time of Your Life”, is a TEDxTotnes talk featuring Martin Boroson, the creator of One-Moment Meditation, which is a type of meditation training that helps people get to one moment of focused attention by “breaking through the time barrier” (it says here).

Boroson wrote a book about this meditation training he developed, ONE-MOMENT MEDITATION:  Stillness for People on the Go, that is now available in 12 languages and that Oprah featured as a thirty-day series on stress relief.

Boroson is an interesting man.  He studied philosophy at Yale and earned an MBA from the Yale School of Management as well.  A Zen practitioner, he’s worked as a psychotherapist and theater producer, among other things, applying ancient wisdoms to modern day life.

THOUGHTS ON “FREE TIME”

In 2008, the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan American fact tank based in Washington, DC, asked middle-class Americans to prioritize what was important to them in their lives.

Sixty-eight percent of people responded that having free time was very important — outpacing the importance of having children (62 percent), a successful career (59 percent), being married (55 percent), or being wealthy (12 percent).

Upper- and lower-class respondents essentially gave the same answers, the Pew study noted.

There were a slew of studies done around this factoid too, of course.

Anybody who’s old enough to spend time working for somebody else has probably noticed that some people have more control over their own 24 hours than others.  A bunch of them even have control over YOUR time.  Some of the researchers locked in on that.

It turns out that it’s not how much “free time” away from work or other obligations we have that affects our psychological and physical health.  It’s the amount of control we perceive over our own time that counts.

Anybody who says, “Other people make the decisions about when I work,” and “I can’t decide for myself when I take a break” is likely to consider themselves time-poor.

A fairly new concept, “time affluence,” has risen up as a result of these studies, and a new category of lab-coat dudes and dudettes was born.

Tim Kasser, the researcher credited with coining the name, is the author of a book, THE HIGH PRICE OF MATERIALISM, which details how various studies say our well-being is adversely impacted when we organize our lives around material results.

The book goes on to propose assorted changes we can make in ourselves, our families and our society that could correct that.

Kasser also published a separate paper on the results of four empirical studies that documented the positive effects of feeling time-rich.

In it Kasser pointed out that these four studies showed that time affluence relieves stress, improves physical health and leads to greater involvement in the community, more positive ecological behavior and increased well-being, including job and family satisfaction – all at rates significantly higher than just making more money and getting more stuff.

My favorite thought on all this comes from Woody Tasch, the author of INQUIRIES INTO THE NATURE OF SLOW MONEY.  He says,

The economics of time are changing. I don’t think we need a new generation of economists who study time. I think we just need a bunch of people who come to their senses. Coming to our senses would be something like this: recognizing that we have a choice. We need the gumption to slow down with a portion of our lives and do what we know we need to do.”

walking-in-heaven
“Walking In Heaven” by moonjazz via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
One of the best bits of advice about it all comes from science writer Stefan Klein, in his book, THE SECRET PULSE OF TIME:  Making Sense of Life’s Scarcest CommodityKlein says, “We can stop seeing calendar dates and times as a corset we have to squeeze into and consider them simply resources for organizing our lives within the larger community.”

MY OWN  THOUGHTS

I tend to agree.  The one-size-fits-all model of time doesn’t make sense.  Each person has their own natural rhythm and their own sense of inner time.

Whenever a bunch of us humans get together, we do need to sort of all move in the same direction in order to accomplish major things together, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ve got to walk in lock-step to somebody else’s drum.

(Myself, I prefer thinking about Mardi Gras, Rose Bowl, and Aloha Festival parades rather than the ones displaying military might — everybody walking in lockstep with heads and eyes all front-and-center.)

“Aloha Festivals Floral Parade” by Thomas Tunsch; via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
As social change-maker and facilitator Shilpa Jain said, when she was the Education and Outreach Coordinator for Other Worlds (a non-profit organization affiliated with the United Nations):

I think a core aspect of being able to be affluent with our time has to do with having a sense that our time is our own, and our stuff—and our limits around our stuff—is also our own. We can actually get a clear sense of how much I need, how much you need, and what is it we really can share together, and how we can pool our resources to be able to live the life we want.”

That one makes sense to me.

ONE LAST THOUGHT

This YouTube video, “Life Is Ticking Away – Time to Smile” featuring Sadhguru was published in 2016.  It sure does make me smile.  Enjoy!

Here’s a poem:


GETTING TO MINE

I have mine to do.

I’m not doing it and

It gets me riled at me.

 

I tell myself

I refuse to be

Some replaceable clog

In someone else’s clockworks.

I tell myself

I want to make mine.

 

I want to be

Building my worlds

That invite and entice,

Casting out lures to the Creative,

Making beauty,

Shining up the place.

 

Come, come, come.

Be peace.

Be joy.

Let go of struggle, of strife.

Come.

 

There it is,

In a pile all over the floor.

Mine.

It needs to be sorted out.

It needs to be worked and re-worked.

It needs to be dreamed on and refined.

It sits.

Waiting.

 

I am called to play.

I am called to help other people play.

That doesn’t seem so hard….

And yet,

I keep getting side-tracked.

I keep getting distracted.

 

This one’s imperative,

That one’s over-amping needy,

They tug at me,

Pulling me away from mine.

 

Mine only whispers at me.

The heartfelt shouts,

The moans and groans,

The fascinating puzzles

Begging to be unraveled and resolved

Pull me away from mine,

Drown out the whispers.

 

It’s a different kind of play, that,

Playing with other people.

I am good at it.

I like it when it works.

But, mine is languishing,

Piled up, all aglay, in heaps,

Begging for me to hear.

 

Wise guys say

You have to give up the good

In order to reach for the better.

So here I sit,

Looking at the stacks

Of mine still piled up

In the corners of my life.

 

I wonder if there’s a 12-step program for this stuff….

Maybe I need to de-clutter or something?

by Netta Kanoho

Header Photo credit:  “Where’s the Pot of Gold?” by Beckywithasmile via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

 

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REACH FOR TRANSFORMATION

REACH FOR TRANSFORMATION

I’ve been noticing lately that there seems to be a lot of musings going ‘round about transforming your life by getting out of your field of work and trying something else.

When you’re feeling trapped and unfulfilled by the consequences of your previous professional and work choices, thinking about making a change is probably a go-to default.

The numbness in you that grows as your joy-switch keeps tripping off starts reaching epic proportions.  You become one of the multitudes of the Disengaged.

chain
“chain” by Andy Maguire via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Jumping off the conventional well-beaten path and running off down some other forest trail or hitching a ride on a boxcar going someplace else starts sounding mighty good.  This durned road you’re on is not taking you where you want to be and it sucks.

IT’S NOT ABOUT GETTING A DIFFERENT JOB

This career-changing thing is not the same thing as changing jobs – i.e., doing the same thing you have gotten good at doing and moving (or being moved by circumstance or desire) to another company or a different division or some other project.

For that one, you’re just doing the same dance, only in a different place.

The traditional job market has all kinds of practical solutions for making changes if you’re wanting to do more of the same.

kitchen-help
“kitchen help” by Andrew Huff via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
If you’re are an experienced knowledge-worker and a leader of some sort in corporate-world, there are “recruitment consultants” — intrepid headhunters looking for new trophies for their bag – as well as the CV/resume dance and the professional networking thing.

If you’re in the helping or service or sales professions, there are many online jobsites and job alert services and all sorts of folks in your own network that can help you find other places to do the work you’re already doing.

Creative sorts have similar resources in their own worlds as well.

Making a job change can take a tremendous lot of hustle and is likely to rearrange your life in many ways.

However, it is a truism:

Doing the same thing you’ve always done is

likely to get you the same results you’ve always gotten.

That is not a problem if you like the results you’ve been getting.  It does become a problem if you don’t like those results.

WOULD YOU RATHER DO DIFFERENT?

The people to whom the career-change advice is aimed are the ones who may have accomplished some good stuff already.

After working in a field for a while and getting some accomplishments under their belts, they are feeling like their heart has gone missing somehow.

The drag starts getting heavy on them and the “good life” they may have built is just not satisfactory.

The thing that used to excite these folks has gotten stale.  Maybe they are feeling ready to get growing in some other direction, having already explored one slice of the world as thoroughly as they feel they want to.

One lovely example of this mindset (along with some hard-won insights) comes from Felicia Ricci, a self-described “five-trick pony who loves to make creative mischief.”

Ricci is an author, performer, voice teacher and entrepreneur, who presented this lively talk, “How To Change Careers When You’re Lost” at the TEDxYale talk-fest in 2015.

Her writerly point is that your life is always in “draft mode.”  You can revise, revise, and revise until you get it to your kind of “right.”

Ricci’s takeaway tips:

  • Ignore the odds. (If you’re innovative, the odds will never be in your favor.  Do it anyway.)
  • Embrace the fear. (Revisions can be terrifying and stressful and you will freak out.)
  • Don’t decide by thinking, decide by doing.

HELP IS ALL AROUND YOU

Are you one of those who are looking for different?

There are career-change books, articles, and online videos and podcasts by assorted gurus and mavens and academic sorts which are loaded with information about the how of it all if you’re inclined to get into it.

There are numerous profiling tests and lots of systems to help you figure it out as well as lots of people who are willing to help you in your search for the new work-you.

A fairly new profession – career coach – has bloomed in the business jungle within the last couple of decades.  You can buy the services of a native guide to lead you through the tangled, messy landscape of Change and hack your way through all that confusion.

excursion-dress-code
“the excursion dress code” by Linda de Volder via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
There’s a fascinating collection of success stories put together by Careershifters, probably the largest more-than-profit online organization dedicated to helping people who are ready to reach for their own transformation.

This London-based group grew from a brain-seed planted by social entrepreneur Richard Alderson, who is a career-shifter his own self.

Click on this button to access the stories:

click-here

The button also takes you to the Careershifters website that introduces you to a bunch of resources and practical tools that can help you start your own life-meaning revision work.

GO OR NO?

There are, evidently, many ways to reach for transformation and make your own changes happen.  (There sure are a lot of studies and lists and exercises and practices and all of that out there.)

Among all of this information, you’re sure to find moves that will resonate with you as you think and talk and do your way through the process of getting to your transition point.

The only one who can stop you from starting at this point is you.

So…what?  No?  Go?

directions
“Directions” by Russ Allison Loar via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
As a person who is always looking for new wonderments to try, my own suggestion is that you have some fun and play around with various ideas until you find something that hits a major chord in you.

Maybe you’ll be lucky and there will several.  Cool!

You may also want to take another look at all of the fun things or the things you do very, very well in that work you’ve been complaining about.

You can try mashing up all of these bits into something that’s unique to you.

Go forth and play, you!

My other suggestion is that you deliberately do all of this shimmying around as a replacement for that groaning, moaning and whining you’ve been doing.

Whining and acting helpless and hopeless is a habit, you know.  All the smarty-pants guys in lab coats tell us that if you replace one habit with another habit, you’re likely to lose that first habit.

If you replace that old poor-thing-me habit with this career-shift project, you’ll be way too busy trying to make the puzzle pieces fit and then working out (and trying) ways to make them work for you that you’ll have no time left over for beating yourself up or feeling frustrated or put-upon.

Your energy level will probably go up because you’re interested in SOMETHING again and that interest just naturally will call up more energy you can use for more playing.

Once you get started doing this stuff, plans and projects and other moves – big and small — will become evident.  As you work on those, they may even evolve into other things that are particularly intriguing.

You may start to notice opportunities to try out some of those wild and crazy ideas you’ve been growing.  You may even try to do them.

Who knows?  Something wondrous could come of it.

HOW TO FAIL AT TRYING TO TRANSFORM YOURSELF

I found one particularly interesting list in my Google-wanderings on a website, Project Management Hacks, that is put together by career advisor Bruce Harpham.

This list takes a look at the five mistakes people make when they are trying to do a career-shift.  According to Harpham, these moves are most likely to lead to staying in the suck.

DO NOTHING.  Dreaming and fuming in frustration does not get you out of there.

COMPLAIN.  Self-expression and self-pity parties are helpful for pinpointing the problem, but it doesn’t do anything else (and probably turns off a lot of other people or brings them down).

RESIGN IMMEDIATELY.  Taking off for parts unknown without a basic plan or any knowledge of your next steps is a pretty sure recipe for failure.

UNDERESTIMATE THE CHALLENGE.  It’s hard enough trying to find a new place to do the same thing you’ve always done.   Trying to break into another field is a heck of a lot more complicated.

For one thing, there are all of those other guys who have been doing what you want to do quite well, thank you.  What does a wanna-be like you have to offer?  (HINT:  That’s where finding a something that is uniquely you will come in handy.)

THE DO-IT-YOURSELF TRAP.  Why re-invent the wheel when it’s already been done for you?

Go talk to the people who have succeeded in doing what you want to do.  Pick other brains and pay attention to what they say.  Fit the lessons you find into that puzzle you’re building.

There are a heck of a lot of excellent people out there and some of their thoughts can be pretty amazing.  Maybe one of their brainstorms might work for you or spark a good one of your own.

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS

Philosopher and writer Alain de Botton who founded another interesting online enterprise, “The School of Life,” points out, “When work is not going well, it’s useful to remember that our identities stretch beyond what is on the business card, that we were people long before we became workers – and will continue to be human once we have put down our tools forever.”

kenor
“Kenor” by Dr. Case via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
That’s a good thing to keep in mind, I am thinking.

Oh…and I do have one other suggestion:  When you’re looking to do something different, don’t forget to pay attention to the crabby voice inside you that’s been snarking and side-swiping at you as you’ve been busy sinking into the suck.

It is probably the most important voice of all.

Sit your Inner Self down and let it give your Inner Dummy a good talking-to or three.  Listen.  Let the complaints wind down and look for what’s hidden in there underneath all that vinegar and vitriol.

Pay attention.  You may be amazed at what it has to say.

Here’s a poem:


LET THEM HAVE….

Let them have their pie charts and their checklists.

Let them have their numbers two by two.

Let them have their second-guesses and procedures.

Keep the secret thing that makes you you.

 

Let them have their gurus and assistants.

Give them their assistants’ assistants too.

Let them have their politics and issues.

Don’t give up the drive inside of you.

 

Let them have their offices and meetings,

Their naysayers, their oracles, their orators.

All their mavens and spin-meisters too.

Keep your vision and your passion and your promise.

Listen to the heartsong inside of you.

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Transformation II by glassghost via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts

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FIND THE SAVOR

FIND THE SAVOR

One of my favorite Einstein quotes is this:  ‘There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.’  Of all his theories, I think, it’s the best one.

Life is either sacred or it isn’t.  Life is either amazing, just as it is, or it’s not.

You don’t even have to be a big brain to figure out that acting as if everything is a miracle and trying to respect and celebrate that premise as a “fact” will probably have different consequences than acting as if nothing is a miracle and, therefore, it doesn’t really matter what you do.

Our moves that arise out of each of these basic premises are very different.  The life that results from making moves predicated on them are also very different.

Of course, most of us are not as “either-or” as Einstein or the assorted wise guys and smarty-pants who offer guidance on these things.  For us, Life-Its-Own-Self mostly runs through a spectrum of “meh” with an occasional off-the-scale event featuring fireworks and other significant joyousness.

perspectives-of-a-waiting-story
“Perspectives of a Waiting Story” by Omar Sharif via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The daily grind and our jam-packed calendars and too-full to-do lists roll right over our days and leave us feeling flatter than street pizza.

We often end up moving faster than the speed of everyday miracles.

It shows.

Our discontents blossom even as we accumulate all the touted “good stuff.” They grow as the pile of accomplishments and achievements increases and sprouts new projects and initiatives and so on and so forth.

It’s like we continue to cultivate the kudzu vines that got away from us and are even now taking over the landscape.  YEEP!

call-me-up
“Call Me Up in Dream Land” by Mike Bitzenhofer via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

SAVORING = MOVING AT THE SPEED OF MIRACLES

Countering the ubiquitous Meh Creep is not really hard to do and all of us can do it.  With a minor investment of time and attention we can get so good at it that we can let the miracles in our life catch up with us.

It’s called “savoring,” described by dictionary.com most beautifully as, “giving oneself over to the enjoyment of.”

Fred Bryant, a social psychologist and professor at Loyola University in Chicago,  wrote a very detailed and learned book, SAVORING:  A New Model of Positive Experience in 2006. His co-author, the late Joseph Veroff, was a researcher and a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan.

That book grew out of his work analyzing a wide range of studies that focus on “being mindfully engaged and aware of your feelings during positive events”.  It lists the benefits that come to you when you savor (i.e., enjoy) the good things that happen in your life.

The smarty-pants have figured out that paying attention to enjoying yourself helps you build stronger relationships, improve your mental and physical health and find more creative solutions to problems too.  The wise guys always said that as well.

A beautiful illustration of “giving oneself over” is this YouTube video, “Far Leaves Tea:  Slow Down.  Pay Attention.  Savor Life.” was published in 2017 by Far Leaves Tea as an explanation of the company’s mission.

BUT, WHERE DO I FIND THE TIME?

Considered as an abstract concept, “giving oneself over” may seem like an impossibility in the face of that overfull and ever-growing To-do List.

Sure, we’d all love to have huge blocks of time where we can devote ourselves fully to the moment.

A few hours on a quiet beach to gaze into the waves rolling in?  Yes!

A whole weekend devoted to doing whatever we most love to do?  Sure!

How about a sabbatical in the mountains with time enough to spare for exploring and dreaming?  Yum!

And what happens?  The latest crisis/trauma drama whirls us around and we get caught up yet again in the rough-and-tumble.  ACK!

notebook-collection
“Notebook Collection” by Dvortygirl via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
I suppose the thing to remember is what Sarah Breathnach says in her book, SIMPLE ABUNDANCE: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy

“Life is not made up of minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or years, but of moments. You must experience each one before you can appreciate it.”

While it’s true that you may not have weeks or days or hours of time to focus on the touchy-feely stuff, you do have moments.  You do have spaces between and within the busy bits.

You can use those spaces to help yourself do some very small, very powerful things.

BUILD SOME SAVORING RITUALS INTO YOUR DAY.  Find a few things that you do every day and make them into a special ritual for savoring.

  • You might want to copy the Far Tea guys and build a ritual around your early morning tea or do one in the mid-afternoon. (Coffee works for this as well.)
  • Taking a tub bath can be a ritual to savor.
  • Reading to your child or snuggling with a loved one are others.

SAVOR THE FOODS YOU EAT.  Don’t just cram stuff in your mouth.  Pause for each bite.  Give the food in your mouth space.  Notice the taste and the texture.  Think about where the ingredients of a dish came from, who made it, what went into it.

  • It’s a funny thing. Several studies have shown that speed of eating may be a factor in the problem of being overweight.  Apparently, people who quickly shovel food into their mouths are more likely to overeat.  By taking the time to pay attention to and enjoy what you are eating, there is less of a tendency to speed through a meal, gobbling up more and more and more.
  • Taking the time to taste and feel the foods you eat also allows you to develop a feel for the kinds of foods your body really likes. Very often these foods are good for your body.
  • Also, slowing down and paying attention to how your body reacts to the food you eat allows you to notice when you are full. You stop eating.

SAVOR THE CHORES YOU DO Slow down and pay attention to what you are doing, especially when it’s some task that you dread.  When you’re writing that stupid report, when you’re cleaning the bathroom or doing your taxes, slow down.

  • Ask yourself what is enjoyable about it.
  • Notice how you position your body, how your hands move, how you breathe as you do the task.
  • Enjoy your skill at getting the surfaces you’re working on super-clean. Appreciate your ability to work with words or numbers or the tools you are using.

ENJOY LITTLE PLEASURES The French culture emphasizes the value of little treats, “petits plaisirs.” They understand, the French, that taking the time to indulge in small pleasures add a little bit extra to an ordinary, mundane experience.

  • A scented candle or a single gardenia floating in a dish can add a little bit of richness to the air around you.
  • A special pen or fine papers can make writing a letter to a special friend a pleasure that beats out a post on FB or yet another Tweet.
  • Looking for and indulging in little joys like this consistently can change the pace and the flavor of your days without a lot of huge money outlay or massive planning. Their effects are cumulative; they can add up.

IMMERSE YOURSELF IN WHAT YOU ARE DOING RIGHT NOW.  Avoid thinking about what else you could be doing.  Just do what you are doing and when it’s done, enjoy the doneness of it.

  • If you can pay attention and savor what you are doing right now, then eventually you will be able to give many of the moments of your life the space and attention they deserves.
  • No moment cannot be savored. Even the ones when you are stuck in a not-so-pleasing routine can be given your attention and your focus.  Perhaps you might come up with some new ways to make the everyday routine more pleasurable if you do this.
  • Savoring the way you are spending your time and feeling what is happening when it is happening helps you appreciate how you are spending the time of your life. That awareness and appreciation and reveling in the moments of your life can lead you to growth in a direction you find more pleasing.  A good thing.

These are all little things, it is true.  The Real is, however, life is actually made up of little things.

ONE MORE TAKE

This video, “Savor the Coffee Not the Cup” was published in 2017 by Rushabh Dediah.  It presents a little bit of wisdom that I wanted to share.

Here’s a poem:


CHEMISTRY LESSON

There are days when nothing grabs

At the heart and the complexity

Of a life lived large scoots

Around inside your head like

Those quicksilver drops that scatter into

More globs when you poke them.

 

The best way to gather the

Skittering blobs is to poke the

Space next to each one so it

Scoots away from your finger and

Then you can shepherd it to

Another glob and they will stick.

 

Zut, zap – yes, just like that:

They’ll make one tiny bigger blob

And if you keep after them,

You’ll get them all herded together

Into one big shiny, flowing whole.

Poking the middles doesn’t work, though.

 

So, I guess, the spaces next to

Blobs are the key to making

Them move, just as playing with

The spaces between life things like

Duty and responsibility and having fun

Connects them all into one life.

 

And if you slam your way through

The middles of your life things

Then they scatter outward in

All directions like quicksilver and you have

To start all over again, herding

All those silly things back together.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture:  “Wild River With Lighting Effects” by Camille Bouliere via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts

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FIND YOUR OWN VOICE

FIND YOUR OWN VOICE

Probably every wanna-be Creative has been told (at some point or other) that in order to reach their full potential as a writer, visual artist, musician, performer or whatever, it is imperative to “find your own voice.”

Now, in the Age of Social Media and Self-Branding — when the “Creative Mindset” is supposed to be The Way to $ucce$$ and Happiness — we are told that we must go looking for our individual, unique voices.  Our success depends on it.

I confess, I almost lost it when a pragmatic, more literal-minded friend snarked, “I KNOW where my voice is.  It’s right here in my mouth!”  Gales of laughter came bubbling up.

Explaining this “voice” thing gets confusing because even people who are engaged in developing themselves in a craft or an art or some other skill that doesn’t use words and doesn’t engage the mouth’s ability to make sounds can get all tangled up in trying to figure out how to find their own “voice.”

Now that the business world has turned on to getting creative, it seems that everyone wrestles with the idea of developing a voice.

There are Titans out there – the guys who built empires using their strengths and compensating for their weaknesses by surrounding themselves with people who have other, complementary strengths.  Lots of people admire them and want to be them.

There are Mega-Stars and Rainmakers and Heroes and Idols and Headliners and Leaders and Big Cheeses and High Muckamucks and Household Names and Treasures and Wonders and Leading Lights and so on and so forth, ad nauseum.  

Every one of them will probably tell you that they reached the stratosphere of massive accomplishments because they were successful in finding their own unique “voice.”

WHAT IS YOUR VOICE?

This concept of the elusive “voice” all wanna-be Successes are supposed to be nurturing is the crux of a story I encountered in a blog published by a flamenco dance teacher, Rina Orellana.

She relates how students come to her asking, “How do I find my voice?  How do I allow myself to become the dancer I want to be?”

When dancers ask her this, she says, to her it’s an indication that the dancer is “not quite comfortable in their skin.  They’re thinking too much and not feeling or allowing themselves to be in the movement.”

Her advice to these students is particularly insightful, I think.

Orellana tells them that they “need to allow themselves to be the bad-asses that they are” and she reminds them to “look at themselves in the mirror not to correct any physical part of the dance but to CONNECT with themselves as the person dancing.”

She assures them that looking at themselves in the mirror with acceptance will ultimately lead to their being confident in their movement and in their skin.

flamenco-dancer
“Flamenco Dancer” by Natalia Ba via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Being comfortable in your own skin is how you tell when you are speaking with your own voice.

Your “voice” is how you’re recognized by others.  It’s the “tone” and the themes of your body of work (whatever it is).

Every time you do anything that other people notice, whether you’re an artist, a businessperson, an intellectual, a scientist or a geek, you are also putting your values and the unique perspectives and skills you bring to your work on display.

What is on display is the meaning and the mana that you have developed so far in your life.  Your work shows how you are standing in the world.

Like every other human thing, your “voice” changes as you grow and evolve.  It develops nuances and layers.  It deepens.  It may develop greater clarity or get muddied up by life-induced confusions.

TWO TEACHERS

As an accomplished dancer and teacher, Ornella says, she cannot help passing along her own ways of moving and styling as well as the basic theories and techniques surrounding the craft.

However, in the middle of all that, her aim as a teacher is to encourage each individual dancer to find and focus on the movements that feel “right” for the dancer and to explore the rhythms that resonate.

Kevin Fitz-Gerald, a professor at the USC Thornton School of Music, in this YouTube Video “ARTS: Finding Your Voice,” which was published by the school in 2007, agrees with Ornella.  The video was produced by artistshousemusic.org.

As Fitz-Gerald points out in the video, the things that his students point to as things they don’t like about themselves are very often what sets them apart and makes them unique individuals.  It is those things that can help them move beyond being “average” or “mediocre” and generic.

Both of these teachers advise their students to discover and develop their own natural strengths and make allowances for their inherent weaknesses and limitations by working on improving their techniques and by choosing a framework within which they can reach for their best work.

Both of them say that you will only be able to discover and use your own voice to present a message that is unique to you when you are able to explore and accept the whole package that is you.

VOICE, AUDIENCE AND YOU

All performers (and businesspeople are performers too) need an audience.  It’s part of the dynamic of this self-expression jones Creatives have. They trip out on the reactions they can engender in their audiences.

Every Creative understands that their audience will have an effect on how the artist does what he or she does.  Often the audience will determine whether the artist can continue to do it.

As a performer you want your audience to actually see who you are.  You want them to pay attention to what you have to say.  The audience doesn’t have to like what you say.  They don’t even have to like you.

Getting these others to pay attention to what you need to say can be the most important, life-affirming thing a human can do.

As a young girl who was a victim of sexual abuse by a trusted adult, acclaimed poet Maya Angelou had to choose between going silent and remaining trapped in an untenable situation or finding and using her own voice to get the help she needed to escape and to transcend this soul-shattering thing.

The girl chose to speak, and she kept on speaking and affirming life throughout her long and productive time on this earth.

In this YouTube Video, “Finding My Voice,” published in 2010 by visionaryproject, she tells how she brings herself out of her inherent tendency to go silent and closing herself down by deliberately making herself speak and speak and speak.

As Angelou points out in the video, mutism and freezing when overwhelmed by the circumstances in your life can be a very dangerous thing.  It can become too comfortable.

You become invisible.

Angelou was acclaimed as a poet, story-teller, and writer.  At one point she became an actress, playwright, producer, and director.  She was renowned as an educator and as a civil rights activist.

Angelou died in 2014, at the age of 86.  Throughout her long life, she was not invisible.

THE SHAPE OF THE SELF YOU SHOW

Your audience – anybody who’s watching what you do – will respond to the You that you present to them in your performance.  They can only know what you choose to show.

Maybe you’ve decided to spend your time imitating what those who have become the icons and the “best-of-class” in your field do. Maybe, you think, if you do what they did, then you will glow with their kind of shine.

There’s only one problem with doing this:  The You that you are showing to your audience will never be more than just a copy of somebody else.

For example, there are excellent Elvis imitators out there.  They serve a useful function:  They help keep the legend of that good ole boy alive.  But, really…off the top of your head, can you actually recall the names of these performers?

fat-elvis
“Fat Elvis (#2)” by allison via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
The same is also true in any other field of human endeavor.   Imitation is its own reward.  Maybe you win a lot.  Mostly not.

I suppose, “finding your voice” is all about choosing the You that you want the World to know.  And, probably, you do hope that the You that you choose to show will not be ignored, dismissed or mocked.

Let’s be frank here.  You really do want at least some of the other people in this world to like that self you’re showing them because, basically, you do need to win enough support for what you are trying to do so you can keep on doing it.

Part of that is a matter of survival.  You have to eat.  You need a place to lay your head that’s more comfortable than a piece of cardboard under some highway underpass.  You need to take care of the people you love too.

And you have to achieve all that among all these other people (seven billion and counting) who are wanting to do the same thing as well.

However, it seems to me that if you’re any kind of a Maker, what you really want out of all this dancing around is to get to a place where you will have the freedom to get on with doing what you like to do best.

fountain-dance
“Fountain Dance” by Diana Lee Photography via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

HOW DO YOU GET ON THE BUS?

The biggest problem with all this head-scratching and mooning around trying to hear your own voice is, as jazz great Miles Davis once pointed out, often a matter of spending enough time just doing what you want to do.  Miles said, “Sometimes you have to play for a long time to be able to play like yourself.”

For one thing, there are a lot of different “selves” inside every one of us.

All the wise guys and smarty-pants agree.  All of us humans are pretty much assemblages, made up of the bits and pieces we’ve picked up over time from the other people around us as we continue to wander through the world.

These assorted bits get glued onto the basic package. Sometimes all those life-bits turn us into lumpy messes.

To find the self that best encourages other people to respond positively to your spending your days in ways that resonate with that self you actually started out being can be a bitch of a project.

Every hour of every day and night you’re dealing with the pressures and demands of all of your dailynesses.  Work, and the needs of your family, your friends, your co-workers, your neighbors, and your stuff eat up your time.

Trying to deal with satisfying other people’s priorities, goals and expectations and maintain the life you’ve become accustomed to is often simply overwhelming.

Now, on top of that, we’re supposed to dig out our true selves and find our own voice as well?  Ri-i-i-ght….

dizzy-wood
“Dizzy Wood” by Marco Nürnberger via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Todd Henry is the founder of Accidental Creative, a company that works with people and companies all over the world to foster creativity, productivity, leadership and passion for work.

His book, LOUDER THAN WORDS: Harness the Power of Your Authentic Voice, is a good one to explore if you choose to accept this latest mission:  finding out who you are and what you want to say and do and then figuring out how to get other people to buy into that.

Besides explaining why finding your voice is important if you are looking for the meaning and mana in your ordinary life and in your work, Henry puts forward questions to ask and ways to find your own answers to them.

Here’s a list that he put together:

  • What angers you? What triggers an urge in you to rectify a great wrong?
  • What makes you cry?
  • What have you mastered? What do you do well?
  • What gives you hope? What do you look forward to?
  • As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  • If you had all the time and money in the world, what would you do?
  • What would blow your mind?
  • What platform do you own?
  • What change would you like to see in the world?
  • If you had one day left, how would you spend it?

YET ANOTHER 30-DAY CHALLENGE SERIES

It occurred to me that Henry’s question list would make good 30-day challenge material.  Here’s the how-to:

  1. Grab an ordinary small-kid kind of composition notebook and a pen and label it “The Voice Project.” (No need to get fancy with this.)
  2. Now, choose one of those Henry questions or make one up that’s your own, then make a commitment that for just ten minutes every day for the next 30 days, you will think on that one question and write down your answer to it in that notebook you’ve labeled. (If the time you take to answer the question stretches past the five minutes, that’s fine too.)
  3. Do this notebook thing every day for 30 days.   Be honest with yourself.  Nobody else is going to see this thing.  Just you.
  4. If it starts to get boring, you might want to use colors and drawings and other stuff to illustrate the thing. Cut out magazine pictures and stick them in there.    Write a poem.  Whatever.  Have fun with it, but answer the question.
  5. By the end of that time, you’ll at least get some idea about the kinds of thoughts that arise when you ask yourself this one question.
  6. After you finish the first 30-day challenge with the question of your choice, do it again for the next question, then the next, then the next.

Ten minutes a day for thirty days equals 300 minutes – a minimum of 5 hours total in a 720-hour time period.

It’s less than the time spent attending yet another workshop or working your way through one more online course.

It’s less time than the time spent participating in networking events listening to everybody else’s pitches and slinging some your own self.

In between the question-answering sessions, you might want to go back and read over and look at the stuff you’ve produced.  You might ask yourself whether you really agree with all this blather and B.S. you’re shoveling.

That’s when you really start figuring out what you actually think about the thoughts you think.  You find the shape of your own basic self – the one that just sits there waiting for you to notice.

It gets to be quite fascinating after a while.

composing
“Composing – 67/365” by Andreanna Maya via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
I notice that the weirdest result of this little exercise is how just answering these questions and others like them affects you in your daily life.

You might start doing things that surprise you:  accepting an invitation to a gathering that you might normally not consider, taking on some project or supporting a cause that resonates strongly with you, or trying something you never tried before just to see whether you might like it.

These things may have some pretty amazing results.  It can be a very good thing.

Here’s a poem:


THAT IS THE SAD

Melancholy sits, a knot at the small of my back,

My companion as I walk through sunshine and through rain,

As I do my days,

Charging at windmills,

Taking in the wonderments,

Drinking down the joyousness,

Choking on the tears.

 

Maybe I’m understanding now:

The sadness is only the residue

Left behind as a flood flows

Through my heart cave yet again,

Leaving behind a high-water mark.

 

You know, of course, that all that shiny stuff

Running through all of our heart-caves are

Tributaries that merge together into a great river

Running through this ancient universe,

Pumped out by the jostling masses of living creatures,

Flowing all together like the notes of one grand song.

 

The birds singing their morning hosannas as they greet the sun

Go on through their day with the sound of that

Mighty chorus sounding in their ears,

Content that they’ve established their place in the world.

 

I am thinking we humans are no less connected than they,

But ours is a darker richer song,

Its complexity woven into our days and nights like a subsonic rumble

As we delude ourselves into believing we are immune –

Apart somehow – from the music we are making,

That grandiloquence that touches the edges of our own universe and beyond.

 

We fool ourselves and think we can sidestep the consequences

Of our myriad tiny choices,

That we can stand apart and inviolate, away from the all of everything.

And so we stand uncertain, unsure that this how, this place is righteously ours…

Unlike the bold birds who understand otherwise.

 

That’s the deep sadness, I am thinking,

The “suffering” wise guys ponder – this forgetting that is uniquely human –

The disremembering that, one and all, we are

The favored children of this old universe…

Welcome, gifted and alive,

Swimming in the same golden stream.

 

That willful denial keeps us grabbing at the silly, glittering flotsam,

That awful lostness rasps and scrapes us raw,

Dogging our days and trotting us around all crazy.

That’s the sad, I think.

That’s the suffering.

By Netta Kanoho

Header Photo credit: “Who Is Speaking?” by Daniel Horacio Agostini via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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USE YOUR FEAR AS RADAR

USE YOUR FEAR AS RADAR

How many times has THIS happened?

You have a really crazy idea that you absolutely, deep down in the pit of your stomach, KNOW will be totally RIGHT for you.  You want this.  You irrefutably NEED this!

You get a truly awesome limited-time chance to make it happen and it is imperative that you do this thing right now, or else….well, you just keep doing whatever you’re already doing.

Right then fear will rear its ugly head.

You get the shivers running up and down your spine.  All the hair on your body — on your arms and behind your neck — stand up.   Sweat pours out of you.

Your eyes narrow down and your nostrils flare as you get really, really focused and all the Boogey-Man thoughts take over your brain.

Your head aches because all of your internal sirens are wailing and every one of the alarm bells are bonging and clanging.

Maybe you start trembling.  Maybe you want to cry.  Maybe you want to throw up.

You get tense and you are all ready to rabbit away…run-run-RUN!  Or you freeze in place, paralyzed by all the noise in your head.

panic-attack
“Panic Attack” by James Barkman via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
(Yeah, yeah, I know.  I’m exaggerating a bit.

Sometimes you’ll just get a squirmy feeling in the pit of your stomach, nervous foot-shuffling and a really dry throat.

Other times it’s just a teensy twinge of tingly nerve endings rather than a full-blown panic attack.)

WARNING!  WARNING!  WOOT!  WOOT!  WOOT!

I’ll bet that every time you were on the verge of doing something that was different than what you had done before — every time you tried to push the edges of your comfort zone and every time you tried to go somewhere or do something that you really wanted to do or faced something that was new-to-you and most uncertain — all this trauma-drama showed up like a scary pop-up.

It is a given:  Fear will show up EVERY time you’re growing or going in the direction of your dreams and every time you have to face something new or different or other.

Fear always shows up when you are getting ready to undergo any kind of change — anything that disrupts the life you’ve known so far.

It doesn’t matter that the change is going to bring good things into your life or stop bad things from happening.

It’s Change-with-a-capital-C, and with change there will always be that feeling of risk.  There will always be the feeling that you’re stepping out of line somehow.

out-into-the-world
“Out Into the World” by Aaron Hawkins in Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Basically, the smarty-pants who study such things say that all these body-symptoms of fear are like the blip-blip-blip of the standard-issue radar equipment that’s part of your internal early warning system.

As you go through your day, your mind always scans ahead, looking for things that are out of place or different.  When it detects something that is not-the-same, your brain responds by sending out these fear signals throughout your body.

Fear puts you on alert.  This is fear’s job.  It gets you ready to respond to whatever is coming out of the ethers at you.

Fear is a signal that you are moving into a situation that is different than what you’ve experienced so far.

It is invaluable when you are facing situations that are dangerous and/or life-threatening.

(If you’ve survived for a while in the world, you’ll probably be able to recognize those dangerous or dicey situations easily enough and can work on figuring out how to avoid, mitigate or arrest any developing debacles.)

It becomes problematic, however, when the fear-signals trip you up on your way to your own kind of better.

WHEN THERE’S A TIME-LIMIT

The worst thing about this automatic response-readying system we call “fear” is that it can screw up your ability to take an appropriate action at the time when it’s really needed.

There are times when you are one critical choice away from accepting an opportunity to move forward and reach towards whatever goal you’ve set and that choice is in-your-face right NOW.

freedom
“Freedom” by Padraig O’G via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
If you let the fear-signals stop you, the chance for change will dissipate.  It just won’t be there anymore.

Maybe that’s okay for you.

But, what if it’s not?

In one of his blog posts, productivity and marketing guru  Seth Godin once pointed out, “By the time the fear subsides, it will be too late. By the time you’re not afraid of what you were planning to start/say/do, someone else will have already done it, it will already be said or it will be irrelevant.”

Godin advises that you can use your fear-signals to guide you in your actions.  Rather than shying away or coming to a dead stop, he suggests that you go towards that thing that’s scaring you.

He says, “The reason you’re afraid is that there’s leverage here, something that might happen. Which is exactly the signal you’re looking for.”

If you can make a practice of moving forward to meet and deal with your fear of the opportunity you have been given to make progress in the direction you want to go and to do what you really want to do, then maybe you’ll be able to find more and more ways to keep on doing that.

Maybe you’ll even grow enough to be able to keep on doing it over and over again until you make your dream become real.

go
“GO” by Ludovic Bertron via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
The quintessential go-for-it guy, Richard Branson, once said, “Don’t let fear hold you back from achieving your full potential…I know I’d rather look back on life and say ‘I can’t believe I did that’ than ‘I wish I’d done that’.  How about you?”

HOW TO GET MOVING WHEN YOU’RE SCARED

The thing you have to understand, though, is that your body is really lousy at math and logic.

Rational thoughts and piles of paper spreadsheets, goals, schedules, and lists of pros and cons as well as to-do lists constructed in your more lucid moments do not help make the fearful, fearsome blip-blip-blipping stop.

Being all prepared and everything won’t get you moving.

clutching-her-foot
“Clutching Her Foot…” by Christopher via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
This YouTube Video, “The Secret to Stopping Fear and Anxiety (That Actually Works) was published in 2017 by motivational speaker Melanie “Mel” Robbins.  She is an on-air commentator on CNN, a television host and a serial entrepreneur.

Her book, THE 5-SECOND RULE:  Transform Your Life, Work, and Confidence With Everyday Courage, goes into detail about the many flavors of fear, anxiety and other negative thoughts.  It presents assorted techniques and strategies that allow you to stop fear and anxiety from tripping you up.

The technique Robbins demonstrates in her video is one she developed to help people understand that the kind of fear you experience when you are trying to do something outside your own comfort zone can actually be reframed as “excitement” and can be used to push yourself forward.

“The secret isn’t knowing what to do – it’s knowing how to make yourself do it,” she says.

Here’s a poem:


CALLING OUT CAMP GIRL

Camp girl, camp girl,

Those tiny, tiny dreams of yours are

Way too small for the wings you’ve grown.

Time to spread those wings out now,

Make the world your own.

 

Camp girl, camp girl,

You’ve been growing big inside.

Playing small won’t cut it now.

There’s no more need to hide.

 

Camp girl, camp girl,

Winds are calling your name, and

The old fears don’t hold sway.

Now is the time…

It’s your turn to play.

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Radar Star” by eskwebdesign via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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JUST PAY ATTENTION

JUST PAY ATTENTION

“Pay attention!”  What happens in your head when you hear those words?

Childhood memories of parents, teachers and other Big People ordering you to do it probably aren’t your fondest memories.  It almost always meant, “I’m going to tell you something you probably are not interested in or something you don’t want to hear.  Listen anyway!”

pay-attention
“Pay Attention” by Nigel Goodman via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Public address and warning system pronouncements and alerts that begin with “Attention!” are either boring, unintelligible, or scary…stuff that produces sinking feelings in the pit of your belly or a blank-out of white noise in your head.

In the military and other groups, “Attention!” is an order.   There’s even a special, specified way to “stand at attention” that indicates to the leader-person that you are, indeed, alert and ready to receive your next order.

team-moo
“Team Moo” by will_cylist via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
I suspect that whenever most of us hear the call for attention, there’s a kind of automatic shut-down.

For many of us, our attitude on being ordered to attend to something is summed up by Quora contributor Josh Manson’s comment in this 2015 thread that centered around defining the meaning of the phrase:

I am too broke to pay attention most of the time.

I’m too broke to pay my respect to anything.

I am ok with paying no mind to things that don’t concern me.

To pay means to give something of yourself to another. It is normally associated with money, so we don’t need to specify anything when it’s money we pay, it will be assumed. But to pay attention or pay respect is still giving something of yourself to another.

One question that springs to mind is this: “Okay, so I pay attention.  What does that buy me?”

THE VALUE OF PAYING ATTENTION

As adults, the value of paying attention is likely to be self-evident.  Somehow, we know, it’s the key to many things related to our lives.

  • We have to pay attention to walk across a busy street.
  • Our self-esteem and the authenticity of the way we walk develop according to the attention we give to our own thoughts and feelings, needs and values, beliefs and ideas.
  • Our happiness and the satisfaction and fulfillment we feel as we meet the goals and aspirations we set for ourselves is enhanced by our attention.
  • Our relationships and the communities we build are a lot more satisfying if we actually pay attention to each other and to the world around us.
  • Our business affairs, our careers, and the work we do to develop various skills require our attention.
  • Learning anything new demands our focused attention.
  • Our finances certainly benefit from our attention.
  • If we have health issues, we need to pay attention to our way of living in order to heal ourselves.

We can miss many of the moments of our life because we are not fully present for them and are moving around on auto-pilot, going through our daily routines, unaware of what we’re doing or experiencing as we ignore the world around us and multi-task our way through our days.

pay-no-attention-to-the-blues-singer-in-the-rear
“pay no attention to the blues singer in the rear” by Mary via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]

ATTENTION VS JUDGMENT

Okay.  Now it gets convoluted.

In order to do this “paying attention” thing right – the kind that can change our lives — first we have to understand that there is a difference between “attention” and “judgment.”  Very often the definitions of those two words get mixed up.

Attention is neutral.  We just notice something.  We “pay attention” to it and see that whatever we are noticing is just there and we are there with it.

Judgment, on the other hand, is what comes after the noticing.  We humans are really, REALLY good at doing and fixing and solving stuff.  Because we are bent that way, we tend to look at everything we see as something that needs to be assessed, critiqued, and then probably “fixed” or rejected or enhanced.  We want to do something with this thing we noticed.  We jump right in and start rearranging and moving stuff around.

We even do it to each other, which leads to all kinds of story-making, poetry, tragedy and comedy and such and all sorts of turmoil in our lives.

While “judgment” is certainly useful, it is not “attention.”

Attention is about noticing and being with something without trying to change it.  Attention means taking the time to fully explore, to discover whatever there is to know about something, and to watch as things change by themselves with no interference from us.

everyone-paying-attention
“Everyone paying attention” by André Luís via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Hmmm….

Isn’t that starting to sound familiar?  It’s like that stuff we’ve heard from all kinds of wise guys about “being mindful” doesn’t it?

It’s also a lot like what all those life-coaches and love counselors tell us about the most effective ways to enhance our relationships with others:  Be open.  Notice all those other people without judgment or criticism, welcome them, accept them, be patient, be kind.

The same advice applies to developing your relationship to your own self.  (The best thing about being an adult is that we also have the capacity and the wherewithal to pay attention and to nurture our own selves as well.)

And the key to all of that is just simply to “pay attention.”

YOUR BRAIN ON “PAYING ATTENTION”

It’s an amazing thing.  Numerous studies by neurologists and other smarty-pants scientists keep showing that the way we think and what we pay attention to does physically affect us and have tremendous impact on our lives.  Those wise guys of old were right!

One 2009 best-seller book, BUDDHA’S BRAIN:  The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom, by Rick Hanson, PhD with Richard Mendius, mixes neuroscientific breakthroughs with ancient wisdom teachings from thousands of years of contemplative practice and is filled with information about the practical tools and skills that help you deal with life in our complex and complicated modern world.

Hanson, a psychologist and a Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley California, is also the founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom.  According to him, the scientists have found that “attention shapes the brain.”

What we pay attention to is literally what we will build in our brain tissue.  Whatever we focus on affects how the neurons in our brains develop and wire themselves together.

This YouTube video, “How To Change Your Brain,” was taken at the Greater Good Science Center as part of the “Science of a Meaningful Life” series.  It is a fascinating look at how mindfulness meditation, a way of practicing disciplined attention, is like training your muscles.

The practice, he says, can strengthen our brains as well as help us focus our attention.

ANOTHER TAKE

Emily Fletcher is the founder of Ziva Meditation and the creator of zivaMIND, the world’s first online training (it says here).  She is highly regarded as a leading expert in meditation for high performance.

Her YouTube video, “What You Put Your Attention On Grows,” was published in 2014.  It is a lovely reminder that you do have a choice about what you want to pay attention to.

Here’s a poem:


AW, GOOD GRIEF!

‘Kay.

So I took the road less-traveled

Way-back-when, while in my youth.

I recall it was my “Seeker” phase.

(I remember I was all

“St. George” and “forsooth.”)

That day I stopped in this dark woods,

I don’t think I pondered deep.

I had no previous appointment,

No promises to keep.

 

I took off running like a shot

Past t’s to cross and i’s to dot.

Booking it faster than my fears

I ran on down the faintest track,

Blood all singing in my ears.

I abandoned that clear-cut highway that

Headed right into the tried-and-true,

The Mama-says-not world

That kept making my brown eyes blue.

(I don’t recall one glance back.)

 

I wandered and I wondered

What the heck this thing’s about,

Got tangled up with other folks,

Never did quite figure it out.

I’ve been up and down and sideways

On so many tracks and trails,

Traversed bits of this old mountain side

(Had to run sometimes and sometimes hide).

Puzzles sought and solved,

Conundrums all untied,

Mysteries unveiled,

Companions who lived and died.

 

Those tracks and trails meander on

Through the thick surrounding brush,

Then over the great forest comes

A deep and poignant hush.

 

And me,

I look around and realize:

Dang!

These things are wild pig trails.

 

Ummm….

Where am I?

by Netta Kanoho

Header Photo credit:  “Huh?” by Morgan via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

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WALK THE REAL

WALK THE REAL

I’ve been beating my head on the wall I’ve made using the flood of abundance-mindset and positive-thinking books – past and present – that populate my shelves as well as articles and posts and audio tapes and video thingummies and podcasts that lurk in the spaces my computer can reach.

It all sounds so good.  It’s all warm and fuzzy and smiley-face cool.

It’s also cotton-candy unsatisfactory.  I’ve got a really bad sugar-high going and the crash is imminent, looming, and certain.

THERE IS PLENTY – INSIDE AND OUT

It’s a truth, you know.  It really does feel better to understand that, for real, there is plenty for everybody and that we live in a spectacularly abundant natural world.

Understanding that there really is enough for you and yours is a marvelous thing to carry around with you in your head and in your heart.

As a wise old guy I knew once said, “You live most of your life inside your own head, so it makes sense to make sure it’s a good space.”

I’ve always liked that one.  It’s been one of my guiding lights as I wander around in this old world.

lighthouse
“Lighthouse” by Peter Merholz via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
No matter what’s going on outside, if my inside is together and is what Hawaiians call “pono” – righteous and balanced between myself and others – then I can keep on walking and keep on getting to where I want to go and I can walk lightly instead of stomping around like some cut-rate T. rex.  (Dinosaurs are so yesterday, ya know.)

Building up our internal abundance, as Marianne Williamson points out in her book, EVERYDAY GRACE:  Having Hope, Finding Forgiveness and Making Miracles, does, indeed, work to mitigate external lack and turn it around.

She says, “As long as we remain vigilant at building our internal abundance – an abundance of forgiveness, an abundance of service, an abundance of love – then external lack is bound to be temporary.”  She’s right too.

Teacher, speaker, and author Charles Eisenstein has spent a lifetime looking at the Big Questions (Where do I come from?  Why am I here? Where am I going?) and fiercely focuses on themes like civilization as we know it, human consciousness, money, and cultural evolution.

His is one of the best explanations of the effects of so-called “scarcity thinking” I’ve ever come across.

In his book, THE MORE BEAUTIFUL WORLD OUR HEARTS KNOW IS POSSIBLE, he lays it out:

“From our immersion in scarcity arise the habits of scarcity.  From the scarcity of time arises the habit of hurrying.  From the scarcity of money comes the habit of greed.  From the scarcity of attention comes the habit of showing off.  From the scarcity of meaningful labor comes the habit of laziness.  From the scarcity of unconditional acceptance comes the habit of manipulation.”

And that’s another truth.

ABUNDANCE IS NOT ALL THERE IS

The thing is, I do sort of agree with Richelle E. Goodrich, a poet and novelist who does epic young adult fantasy books and has published a couple of collections of musings about life as well.

In one of her books, SMILE ANYWAY, she says, “You can add up your blessings or add up your troubles.  Either way you’ll find you have an abundance.”

wall-full-of-happy
“Wall Full Of Happy!” by Steve via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The whole abundance thing can easily get to be…well…sort of dogmatic.

It’s easy to maintain the mindset when you’re surrounded by supportive group-think folks.  It’s like being in the middle of a wonderful group hug.  It feels really good.

But, the whole abundance movement thing can get hairy when you’re not surrounded by like-minded people and affirmations are a really crummy shield when there are guys gunning for you and acting out of their own sense of scarcity and not-enough.

There are predators in the world.

There are manipulators.

There are bad breaks and you can get blindsided by factors and conditions you haven’t noticed or considered.

At any given time, there are resources that you want and need which are not available to you when you want or need them.

While it is a truth that you create your own world, it is also a truth that everybody else creates their own worlds as well…and together we make the world we all have to live in.

The one thing about being human is that nobody is the sole creator of this consensus world of ours nor are we the progenitors of Life-Its-Own-Self.  Humbling, I know, but there it is.

Some parts of our consensus world are not so good.  It’s a work in progress, after all, and the builders often disagree on what goes where and what happens next.

An old proverb (probably German) tells us, “God gives us everything we need, but he doesn’t throw it into the nest.”

well-hello-there
“Well, hello there” by Bill Collison via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
That one’s been around a long time.  Another truth.  It’s all out there, but you have to notice it.  Then you have to get up and go get it.

I find that I’m leery of the idea that I’m a magnet à la that Law-of-Attraction thing.  I keep seeing images of stuff flying through the air and hitting me upside the head.  Ouch!

MY OWN THOUGHTS

My own thought is that abundance-thinking is just a part of your Living Life toolbox.

What the abundance-thinking mindset helps with is figuring out a way to go for it which does not cause a lot of collateral damage that comes back to bite you or that haunts you until the end of your days.

This, I think, is a very good thing.

Maybe the positivity thing is like vitamins and minerals.  You need a minimum daily dose of the things for your body’s optimal performance and you can take supplement pills to make sure you get them all, but you do have to stay aware that even stuff that’s good for you can kill you if you overdo it.

lucy-in-the-sky-with-diamonds
“Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” by Steven Depolo via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

THE ANTIDOTE TO THE PARADOX

Perhaps the only antidote to this paradox is developing receptivity and looking at the appropriateness of any given action.

“Receptivity” is all about noticing.  You see and accept what’s in front of you.

“Appropriateness” is doing just enough to move something in a certain direction and nothing more.

It’s like an aikido of the mind.  The whole point in aikido is to notice the direction your partner-in-play is making and to help them go in that direction (perhaps more definitely than they want) and, thus, to move them out of your own way.

aikido
“Aikido” by Javier Montano via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Then you’re free to go do what you want to do.

ALWAYS MORE QUESTIONS

Here are some questions to consider before you go off loaded for bear or walk through an outlaw town as the guy or gal without a gun:

  • Is the action you’re planning to take an appropriate response to whatever circumstance you are facing?
  • Are you receptive to the world around you? Are there conditions or factors in a situation that could have an impact on what you are trying to do?  What can you do about them?
  • Are you noticing things that are wonky in another person’s walk? What can you do to mitigate the effects of that?
  • Are you noticing things that you are doing that just don’t work? Can you do something different that might work better?

One of my favorite quotes is from poet Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

That last may be the biggest test to run on any action before you take it:  How will it make other people feel?  Are you good with that?

swirling-a-mystery
“Swirling a Mystery…for Kim Marie and Aunt Hinkle” by QThomas Bower via Flicker [CC BY 2.0]
Here’s a poem:


I WILL KEEP WALKING

 I guess it’s confusing for

Some people in my life.

They’re never quite sure

Whether I am a grizzly

Pretending to be a chipmunk

Or a chipmunk

Pretending I’m a bear.

 

I figure that’s cool.

I think that’s fair.

 

The ones who care about me

Apparently don’t mind:

That creature-feature’s just me,

And the ones who love me embrace it,

Knowing that just as they walk their way

I am walking mine.

 

I figure that’s great.

I think that’s fine.

 

The ones who have agendas

And shoulds and oughts and want

Their opinions to have dominion

Are likely to think twice

‘Bout coming at me sideways,

May think the cost of doing that

Might not be worth the price.

 

I figure that’s cool too.

I think that’s nice.

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Making Cotton Candy” by Steven Depolo via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

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POET LAUREATE KEALOHA (A Journey)

POET LAUREATE KEALOHA (A Journey)

In 2010, Steven Kealohapau’ole Hong-Ming Wong – “the slam poet known as Kealoha” — was designated by Governor Neil Ambercrombie as Hawaii’s first (and, so far, only) official state poet laureate.

The following 2010 YouTube video, published by poetryfan808, shows the multi-genre, multimedia collaboration that opened the 2010 Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards Show, the annual premier music awards in Hawaii.  (Think of it as Hawaii’s Grammy Awards.)

The show’s opening act, which was spearheaded by Kealoha, features performances by renowned Hawaiian musicians that include the late O’Brian Eselu, Keali’i Reichel, Kaumakaiwa Kanaka’ole, Anuhea, Mailani, Natalie Ai Kamau’u, Amy Hanaiali’i, Jake Shimabukuro, Henry Kapono and John Cruz as well as two hula halau, Na Pualei O Likolehua and Halau Na Mamo O Pu’uanahulu.

WHAT’S A POET LAUREATE?

The mandate given to Kealoha at the time of his elevation to “poet laureate” by the governor was this: “As Hawaii Poet Laureate, Kealoha will highlight poetry in all its forms as enriching to our lives and giving voice to our history and way of life in the Aloha State.”

His duties, the governor’s office said, include reading, writing and spreading awareness about poetry appreciation as well as performing at official state events like the dedication of a sculpture garden at the Hawaii State Art Museum and performing at the governor’s inauguration.

He can also be asked to represent Hawaii at similar ceremonial events around the country and the world.

Kealoha was doing all that for years before he was named Hawai’i’s official poet laureate.  It has all been a part of a spirited journey that took some unexpected turns.

long-and-winding-road
“Long and Winding Road” by Khánh Hmoong via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

GETTING TO THE BEST DREAM

Kealoha is a local boy.  He was born and raised in Honolulu.

Like many bright island youngsters he went away to school in the Mainland.  At the time he was dreaming about becoming a nuclear engineer, working on atomic fusion, and changing the world.

He returned home to Honolulu at the end of 2001, after earning a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and after spending a couple of years after he graduated working as a business management consultant in San Francisco for the Mitchell Madison Group, a worldwide company with clients such as Adidas, Visa, Samsung, Mattel, Sun Microsystems and Health Net.

Looking at it from the outside, there doesn’t seem to be much of a connect between business management and his major in nuclear physics (with a minor in writing), but as Kealoha says, scientists and engineers are trained to solve problems.

Corporations value that ability and problem-solvers are well-paid.  At Mitchell Madison, he oversaw marketing, aggressive sourcing, business development, internet strategy, corporate strategy and energy research.

It was in San Francisco that Kealoha discovered slam poetry.  He told PBS Hawaii “Long Story Short” interviewer Leslie Wilcox about that time.

The poetry he heard when he attended his first poetry slam in 2000, he said, just blew him away.  He was instantly hooked.

He said, “…my work just sort of got pushed to the side ‘cause I would spend all my time writing.  I was spending all those late nights, on Sunday night going to these poetry slams.  And Monday morning, going to work all tired.  And I didn’t care; I was living again.  I had something that really inspired me.”

Meanwhile, his work as a consultant had become less meaningful to him.

Kealoha needed to re-think where he wanted to go with his life, so he did what a lot of local kids do.  He did the Full Circle; he came home.

honolulu-airport
“Honolulu Airport” by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
One interesting question that Wilcox posed during her interview with Kealoha struck me as noteworthy.  She asked whether Kealoha had a five- or ten-year plan.  He chuckled a bit ruefully and admitted that he did not.

The guy does not deliberately plan out his path.  He just takes off in the direction that looks like it could work for him and then whales away at it until it does work.  Maybe there is a lesson in that.

HAWAIIANS AND THE SPOKEN WORD

When he got back to Honolulu, Kealoha discovered that the urban poetry and art scene was alive and lively.

At the time of his homecoming, Wordstew, the brainchild of poet-performer Jesse Lipman (recognized as the godfather of Hawaii Slam Poetry), was drawing crowds at the Wave Waikiki nightclub’s open-mic nights.

This YouTube video features a poem by Jesse Lipman, “Jewipino Flowers,” at an early First Thursday gathering in 2013.

Other literati, musicians, deejays, and artists were cultivating “art spaces” where sound and visual artists could meet to collaborate.  Kealoha found a thriving literary and performing arts community.

Its existence was probably due in part to the reverence for the spoken word that has always been strong in Hawaii.

Before there was a written language, all of the native history and traditions were contained in the chants and the mele (song-poems) that were passed down through the generations.

Even when speaking the Hawaiian language was discouraged by those in power over a conquered people, the songs, old and new, could not be silenced.  The habit of word-play continued.

More than one observer has noticed the affinity the island peoples have for it.  Spoken word artist, author and publisher Richard Hamasaki found it to be true when he participated in the state Department of Education Artists-in-the-School program.

Hamasaki found that many of the children he encountered in the program had an affinity for word-play.  He said, “They had ingenious ways of combining what they heard on the radio with the language of their culture and they produced work that was honest and alive.”

This is no small thing.  Hawaiians are descended from poets and songwriters as well as warriors, farmers, artisans, and sailors, and even the children can dance with words.

Perhaps this is because, for Hawaiians, words hold power.  There’s an old proverb, I ka ‘ōlelo no ke ola, i ka ‘ōlelo nō ka make. (In the word is life.  In the word is death.)

It comes from a time when the performers of the chants and the mele had to be word-perfect.  They were, after all, the ones who carried the words of the ancestors and of those who held the old wisdoms.  These words held power and magic.

AND THE DREAM COMES REAL

Kealoha joined right in, working open-mic nights, competing in national slam competitions and helping to build a “poetry scene” in Hawaii.

He helped to found HawaiiSlam, a non-profit organization dedicated to showcasing poets from the islands.

HawaiiSlam has been running the nationally certified First Thursdays slam poetry competition, the largest registered poetry slam in the world, and Kealoha has been SlamMaster since 2003.  HawaiiSlam’s ongoing First Thursdays competitions in Kaimuki draws more than 500 attendees each month.

Kealoha has also been on the “Artists-in-the-Schools” roster since 2005, helping to introduce youngsters to the power of words and poetry and he works with young poets who are hoping to compete in the national slam poetry competitions.

HBO’s 2009 “Brave New Voices” documentary produced by Russell Simmons featured Kealoha as the strategic coach for “Youth Speaks Hawaii”, a slam poetry team that won the entire festival that year.

He has ventured into theatre as a director, playwright and actor, has performed internationally as a poet and storyteller, and was selected as a master artist for a National Endowment for the Arts program as well.  The list goes on and on.

FINAL THOUGHTS

In an interview for his alumni on-line newsletter, “Slice of MIT,” Kealoha said that being named the official poet laureate for the state was a great honor.

He also said that he feels most fulfilled when people tell him that his work has moved them or changed their perspective.

“That’s the goal – that’s the good work,” he says.

And isn’t that the best reason to make the journey into your own dreaming?

This YouTube video is Kealoha’s 2012 TEDxManoa Talk which features his poem, “The Poetry of Us”.

 


Header Photo credit:  “Kealoha: Science Poetry Life”  (TEDxHonolulu 2011)

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GET BACK YOUR KID MOJO

GET BACK YOUR KID MOJO

Children fascinate me.

The coolest thing about kids, I think, is this:  They come into this world as a bundle of wonder and curiosity.

BEGINNER MIND POWER

Kids know they don’t know, they’re hard-wired to find out, and they are absolutely single-minded in their efforts.  They are the epitome of relentless, the very best role models for persistence.

Every one of them is working on mastery.  They all want to know how to do it all well.

It doesn’t stop:  walking, talking, tying shoelaces, making friends, riding a bike, playing games, finding out how something works and why you do this and not that.  On and on and on.

halcyon-days
Halcyon Days” by Sel Felin via Flickr [CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]
They notice everything (especially the stuff the adults would rather they didn’t) and they are interested in every single little thing they encounter.

Their major mistakes are usually the result of ignorance.  They just don’t know enough yet and a lot of their plans fall apart because of that.  (That tends to give the people who care about them the heebie-jeebies, but so what?)

When they’re starting out, kids are determined to catch on and catch up.

determination
“Determination” by Susan Lloyd via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
They want to do it themselves.

They want to get good and they want to show they know what they know.

SMALL IS COOL

Kids start small.  After all, they are little and they are weak and have to depend on the Bigs around them just for survival.  (But, THAT is gonna change!  Uh-huh.)

small-steps
“Small Steps” by john mccaffrey via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Every time they make a misstep, it’s usually just a small hiccup in their forward progress.

The little guys haven’t gotten to the big stuff yet and if they’ve got Bigs who help to keep them mostly safe from the ordinary life-threatening stuff, kids can pick themselves up and try again…and again and again…until they get to where they want to go.

If the circumstances in their lives are harder, more unfortunate, or even downright dangerous, then the ones who survive learn more and they learn faster and often they get even better at not giving up.

ratchathewi-skytrain-stop
“Ratchathewi Skytrain Stop (Bangkok, Thailand) by drburtoni via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Every little win is its own reward.  (One more down, what’s next?)

TIME IS ON THEIR SIDE

Kids know time is on their side.

time-is-on-my-side
“Time Is On My Side” by Daniel Novta via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
They’re going to get bigger.

They’re going to get those flabby muscles built up and that tongue moving right.

They already know how to act cute, and they are going to learn how to make friends and influence all those Bigs too.

They’re going to keep on going until they get there.

Kids only absolutely know they have Now, and Now is when they want to do something, so they work with whatever they’ve got going and they do what they can with it.

They’re going to find out everything they need to know about everything they want to know…just, EVERYTHING.

PLAY AS SERIOUS WORK

Kids also know that play is really serious work.  It’s how you learn what you need to know.

When they get the chance to play, they will go for it.  Why not?  Maybe they will learn something.

hard-at-work
“Hard at Work” by quadrant via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
You can just see the wheels turning as they play.

You can just imagine them thinking, You watch:  I’m going to get out there and I’m going to rock the world!  Yes, I am!

GETTING BACK TO THE MOJO

Sounds familiar, right?

We all started out like that.  Some of us manage to hang onto the wonder and use it to leverage ourselves up and on to doing more and more amazing things.  The rest of us wonder how come we don’t.

There are a lot of lessons you can learn about mastery by watching kids.  Here are some examples:

  • IT ALL STARTS WITH WONDER AND INTEREST.  Even as adults, we know this.  If you are not interested in something, you just don’t pay attention to it and you don’t notice the lessons that are right there in front of you.
wonder
“Wonder” by Cristian via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
  • SMALL WORKS. We’re all little compared to the Universe.  We all have limitations.  We get to where we want to go by doing what we can with what we’ve got.
vancouver-snowmen
“Vancouver Snowmen!” by danna & curious tangles via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
  • NOW IS WHEN YOU DO SOMETHING. It’s the only time when you can.  You can’t change the past.  The future is out of reach.  There really is no other when to do something.
now
“Now” by Kai Schreiber via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
  • PERSISTENCE AND WILL RULES. If you haven’t gotten to where you want to go yet, then that’s a sign that you’re not done yet.
persistence
“Persistence” by Jeff Sandquist via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
  • MIS-STEPS AND MISTAKES THAT DON’T KILL YOU DON’T MATTER. So you fell down.  Ouch!  Now try to get back up.  Not happening?  Well, hell…you can crawl, right?
mistaken
“Mistaken” by Paradis Photographis via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
  • KNOWLEDGE IS POWER. Whatever you know is what you know.  What you know can be used to get to where you want to go.  What else do you want or need to know?  Go get it.
kids-at-deep-space-8k
“Kids at Deep Space 8K” by Ars Electronica via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
  • PLAY IS HOW YOU LEARN.

public-service-announcement
“Public Service Announcement” by Jason Mrachina via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Isn’t it funny that these lessons are the same ones that we hear from all the wise guys and life counselors and self-help books?

FINAL THOUGHTS

My theory is that somehow, on our way to learning how to be adults, we got distracted by the details and have forgotten the power with which we were born.

I get the feeling that power’s still there, waiting for you to notice, and if you’ve forgotten what it looks like, then the Universe has lots and lots of little guys who can help you remember.

My own feeling is, if you’re stuck in the suck of trying to be a cog in some wheel not of your own making, the best thing you can do is watch kids…your own kids, kids belonging to your friends and family, stranger kids doing their thing, whatever.

Watch what they do.   See what works.  Do that.

This YouTube video is a compilation of jaw-dropping performances by some amazing kids.  It was put together by People Are Awesome in 2017.

Here’s a poem:


SAME LESSON

The world is a bigger cup

Than your small hands can manage.

It is heavy and close to overflowing.

The hot liquid heart-blood it holds

Burns your fingers

As you concentrate on not-dropping,

As you try yet again to

Navigate over another

Wide, slick, sparkly-clean floor.

 

Your wrists ache

And you grit your teeth.

You try, try, try,

Harder and harder,

To hold onto that cup

That seems to get heavier

As you walk along.

 

There it goes…

Another splat,

Another slip,

Another mess.

The cup’s lying there, emptied,

And all the stuff’s spread out

In one grand sploosh spattered all over

That proud new pair of shoes

As old issues come bubbling up to blindside you,

 

As the shouting starts you notice that

The issues are not even yours.

 

Toddler lessons revisited:

My small, but not my bad.

It helps to remember that

The world is heavy

And it’s way, way big for small people…

It helps to remember that

We are all small.

 

Hmmm…

Maybe we just need smaller cups.

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Power” by BadWolfBobbi via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

 

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GIVE UNTIL IT HELPS

GIVE UNTIL IT HELPS

Here’s a thing from Jay Conrad Levinson’s GUERILLA MARKETING EXCELLENCE:  The 50 Golden Rules for Small-Business Success:  “Give till it helps.

It’s a very different take than the more usual “give until it hurts” that Mother Theresa espoused.

Mother Theresa’s thing seems to encourage a degree of selflessness that’s way over the top.  Some folks take it to mean that you’re supposed to give and give and give until you’ve nothing left to give….and then you give some more.

With that one, I’m not quite sure what you’re supposed to do when you’re totally depleted and unable any more to take care of your own self, your own dreams, and the responsibilities that are yours.

totally-exhausted-fathers
“Totally exhausted fathers” by smumdax via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
I’ve often wondered.

MINDFULNESS AND GIVING

Levinson’s take on the whole giving thing seems, instead, to encourage mindfulness, looking at whether the “help” you’re giving is actually a help to the other person and is not a detriment to yourself.

  • Is this help you are giving effective?
  • Are you empowering the other person?
  • Does the help you are giving encourage the recipient to continue walking their own road?
  • Does it help them to build themselves up so they can tackle their own problems?

Very often, you have to watch to make sure that the responses and moves you’re evoking from the other person as a result of the actions you’ve taken are heading in the direction that can allow them to make the best use of the energy (money, time, talent) that you’ve expended on their behalf.

So, what happens if it doesn’t?  What if your gift keeps the other person from learning the lessons they need to learn?  What if your gift actually diminishes them?

An everyday example of that is the effects of being raised by a so-called “helicopter parent.”

A well-meaning, overprotective parent who does your chores and your homework for you; tries to resolve your every social problem; is your personal rally squad who cheers you on for every little thing you might accomplish and attempts to completely eliminate any sort of contact you might have with frustration of any sort is NOT a help.

If every obstacle is eliminated for you, how are you going to learn how to do your own work-arounds and develop your own strengths to power on through the potholes and hurdles and to fix your own mistakes?

she-climbs-a-tree
“She Climbs a Tree…” by Walt Jabsco [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
If your way of giving involves solving another person’s problems without giving them the chance to face their own challenges, the net result is that your gift can prevent them from developing their own abilities and making their own choices and decisions.

It sends the unfortunate message that you don’t think they can do it without your help.  Is that a message you want to send?

AND WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Also, a major question you might want to ponder is this:  When you are making this gift, are you using your available resources in a way that adds meaning and mana (inherent power) to your own life?

do-i-know-you
“Do I Know You?” by Tom Waterhouse via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg has written about the positive effect generosity can have on one’s sense of freedom and our own sense of self.

When we give, we continually test our limits, she says. “The practice of generosity is about creating space. We see our limits and we extend them continuously, which creates a deep expansiveness and spaciousness of mind.”

The late poet Maya Angelou once famously said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

try-my-boy
“Try my boy!!” by matthew Fang via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
What other meaning does the power of giving lend to your life?  Is it worth the cost?

TWO ENDS OF A GIFTING TRANSACTION

It occurs to me that every gift has a giver and a receiver.  The gift is a transfer of life-energy from one to another.

Gifting is always a transaction between the one who gives and the one who receives.

helping-hand
“Helping Hand” by istolethetv via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
The thing is, human relationships are always complex.  Questions to ask yourself before you offer to help someone with more than an easy-fix problem are these:

  • Does the person want your help?
  • Is the person ready to accept your help?
  • Do you have the skill, the time and the inclination to do what is really needed? Trying to help people when you don’t have the skills or the time or the commitment to a project is likely to do more harm than good.

Jumping into somebody else’s life and messing with their “stuff” does require a lot of heavy thinking beforehand.  Be respectful.  Be careful.  That may be somebody’s heart you’re stepping on.

stone-and-flesh
“Stone and Flesh” by Rachel Titiriga via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
HOW ARE YOU HELPING?

Sometimes it’s just a matter of pitching in.  Some project needs to be completed and you are willing and able to lend a hand.

The goal is clear, everybody agrees on the purpose and the method is fairly obvious.  You go.

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“Helping Hands” by Andree & Edward via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
However, it does get more confusing and a lot more difficult when you’re trying to help others as they cope with circumstances that are catastrophic or perhaps the result of societal issues over which they have little control.

This YouTube video, “Help That Helps – Giving What Is Really Needed,” was published in 2016 by the Visalia Rescue Mission.  It was put together by people who spend their days providing concrete help in many different ways for the homeless in their area.

The major take-away from this one is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for the bigger, more problematic circumstances humans often face.

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“Stew and Sympathy” by Neil Moralee [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Two prominent economists, Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, wrote an investigative book called WHEN HELPING HURTS:  How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself. 

The book has a Christian bent.  Its goal is to educate missionaries and ministries as well as other helpers who work in poverty- and disaster-stricken areas about how to effectively alleviate poverty for the long-term.

The authors advise that these helpers need to focus on the resources and abilities a community already has rather than focusing on what the community does not have.

The book is an interesting read for anyone who’d like to gain a better understanding of the different facets of helping those in need.

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“Compassion and Generosity” by K. Kendall via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

HOW TO TELL WHEN YOU’RE GIVING TOO MUCH

Professor Shawn Meghan Burn’s 2014 article in Psychology Today, “Twelve Signs That You are Giving Too Much,” gives a rundown of the signs that the help you are giving to someone may be dysfunctional and unhealthy.

To read what she has to say, click-here

 

The good doctor has also written a book, UNHEALTHY HELPING:  A Psychological Guide to Overcoming Co-dependence, Enabling, and Other Dysfunctional Giving.

You may want to check it out if you think that maybe your giving is not a help.

SOME TIPS ON EFFECTIVE GIVING

Generosity researcher Adam Grant, the author of GIVE AND TAKE: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, describes generosity as “micro-loans” of our knowledge, skills, and connectIons in ways that transform and shape other people’s experiences.

He says the most successful and effective givers are those who rate high in concern for others and also in self-interest.

These givers contribute in ways that reinforce their social ties and they say yes to the things they for which they have the unique skills, resources or time to give.

They also limit what they do.

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“Power In the Palm of My Hand” by Matthew via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Failed givers, Grant says, tend to say “yes” to everything.  Often they end up either overwhelmed, ineffectual, or resentful and put-upon.

LOOKING FOR THE SIGNS

Perhaps Levinson is right.  Looking at the real effects of what you do to help other people can guide you in determining how much you give and how.

  • If what you are doing is truly a help, then it makes sense to keep on doing what you’re doing.
  • If it does not help (either because you’re making stupid or ineffective moves or because you’re dealing with blind people), then it’s probably a good idea to stop whatever you’re doing and reassess.

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“Warning Sign” by oatsy40 via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
As one commentator pointed out, if you help the wrong person for the wrong reason or in an ineffectual way, you may miss opportunities to really help the right person who needs the kind of help you can gladly give.

GIVING IS A GOOD THING

We all agree that helping people is a good thing.  We believe that it’s a way to ensure our own happiness.

Wise guys have told us that forever.

There’s a Chinese proverb that goes: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.  If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.  If you want happiness for a year inherit a fortune.  If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”

neighbors-helping-neighbors
“Neighbors Helping Neighbors” by Arlington County via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Saints, power dudes and other famous sorts all tout giving and serving others as the way to happiness.

Even scientific research provides compelling anecdotal evidence that giving is a powerful pathway to personal growth and lasting happiness.

The guys in the lab coats have used fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) technology to map out how giving activates the pleasure centers in the brain, just like food and sex.

Humans are hard-wired to feel great about giving, it says here.  We like doing it.  Giving makes us happy.

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“Reminder” by Ryan via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
For some people, giving is as natural as breathing.  For others, not so much.

If you feel like you are starving to death and the world is set up to take everything you have away from you, then it’s unlikely that you’ll be moved to generosity very often.

Generosity is a learned response and you can learn it from the people around you.

That’s what research by Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith suggests, anyway.   He concluded that it is certainly possible to absorb lessons for or against generosity.

This 2015 YouTube video, “Joy” was a story presented by Ashok Ramasubramanian in Speakeasy DC’s monthly storytelling series.  It was part of a show at Town Danceboutique, a bar in Washington, DC, on the theme, “The Charismatic Leader: Stories about those we follow for the right and wrong reason.”

The video gives an example of how someone can be influenced towards more generosity.  It’s also an engaging story.

Smith is not completely convinced that the increased activity that happens in the brain when we are being generous is actually responsible for increasing our happiness.

Maybe all that cogitating is triggered by questions like, “Should I?”, “Can I?”, “Is this worth it?”

He’s one of the guys who suggest that, maybe, because generous people tend to view the world as safe, secure and abundant, it could just be that they are happy because they have a generally sunny outlook. Whatever.

It’s a funny thing, though.  Even seeing other people’s generosity tends to be uplifting and induces a bit of teary-eyed smiling.  This sweet video, “The Most Generous Boy in the World,” published by filmmaker Meir Kay in 2017, is a smile-maker that way.

Another science of generosity finding backed by a lot of anecdotes and stories is that the more adversity someone has experienced, the more compassion he or she often feels.  This compassion is likely to increase the tendency to be generous.

One of my favorite YouTube videos is this 2013 short film made by TrueMoveH, “Inspiring Power of Giving and the Power of Veggie Soup” that was published by Get Your Health Up in 2013.  (Got your Kleenex handy?)

Here’s a poem:


FRIENDS

An everyday wonder are the friends of your heart,

They see you and they let you know you are there with them.

They cherish you for who you are

And they honor what you are making of your own true self.

Their love’s embrace is soft,

But the love is solid and deep.

 

Like a gentle bay, they invite you to come and play

On warm, golden sands shaded by tall trees

With leaves that rustle in the softest breezes,

And swim in calm waters ringed by strong reefs.

You can build sand castles there.

You can float in the water cradled between sand and sun,

A peaceful bit of flotsam among the ripples.

 

Like the moana beyond the reef,

The deep, rolling waves of their love

Carry you on your way beyond the horizons

To new worlds that you can only imagine

As you dream on the beach while you watch the sun set.

In your sailing canoe you will go

To where today meets tomorrow

Supported by the love that surrounds you,

The love that knows who you are.

 

Friends stay with you, enfold and embrace you,

Cry for your pain when lovers go away.

Friends will cheer you and keep near you,

When the world hammers at your soul.

They remind you not to give yourself away.

And, you know, it occurs to me:

It would be a very sad thing

To have a world full of lovers

And not a single friend….

by Netta Kanoho

Header Photo credit:  “Helping” by eltpics via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

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